Step 3: Apply for Incentives
Once you hire a solar installer, he or she will contact a California Solar Incentive program administrator on your behalf to apply for an incentive and arrange for your system to be interconnected to your utility company's power grid. The installer may also apply for local permits, if applicable.
The program administrator will provide you or your installer with an incentive application form and/or apply online using the online application tool Powerclerk. After the program administrator receives your completed application, it will reserve funds based on the size of your solar project. These funds will be reserved for a limited period of time within which you must install your system. By reserving your incentive prior to installation, you can take advantage of the higher incentives available earlier in the program.
When your application has been approved, you will receive a written notice confirming the dollar amount of your reservation and the expiration date by which you must install your system - usually 12 months after your reservation has been confirmed.
How much will my incentive payment be?
California Solar Incentive payments are currently disbursed in one of two ways:
- Expected Performance Based Buydown (EPBB): The applicant receives the entire incentive payment at the time the system is installed, and the payment is based on expected electrical output of the system.
- Performance Based Incentive (PBI): The applicant receives a portion of the incentive payment every month over a period of five years, and the payment is based on the actual metered output of the system.
Currently, only program participants applying for systems smaller than 50 kilowatts (kW) may take the EPBB payment. Beginning January 1, 2010, only systems smaller than 30 kW will be eligible to take the EPBB payment. Any systems eligible to take the EPBB payment may opt to take the PBI payment instead.
The EPBB payment and the PBI payment are intended to be financially equivalent. That is, the up-front payment disbursed to an EPBB applicant is the same after accounting for the time-value of money as the stream of monthly payments disbursed to a PBI applicant. The PBI payments are scaled up 8 percent a year compared with the EPBB payment to account for inflation and the lost return on an investment of equivalent risk.
To achieve our ultimate goal of creating a truly self sustaining market for solar energy systems--free from government subsidies--the California Solar Initiative is structured so that the incentive payments decline as the market grows. Therefore, the incentive step levels decline as more applicants apply for the program.
Incentive levels can change at any time based on the level of demand for solar incentives. See Rebates page for more information on rebate levels.
If your system is smaller than 50 kW and wish to calculate how much your up-front incentive will be given the specific design characteristics of your location, use the California Solar Initiative EPBB Calculator. The calculator will determine your "design factor" which you can then multiply by your currently applicable incentive level.